Making sure you’re recognized as an on-the-way-up mover and shaker with political savvy can be challenging even when you are physically present in an office every day. When you are a remote professional, it gets even more complicated. How do you elevate your visibility, establish for your value ad carve out an upward career track for yourself when you aren’t in the room?
There’s always a fine line and navigating it can be tricky sometimes as remote workers aren’t in the same office but they are as driven and ambitious as anyone.
You don’t want to be too “braggy” or you’ll gain a reputation as pushy, arrogant and self-serving…particularly if you are a woman. Many people are uncomfortable talking about their accomplishments – why should you have to, when they seem so self-evident, right? And few people think about speaking up on another’s behalf.
So, what can you do to proactively move your remote career to the fast track?
Build strong relationships with “insiders”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – networks can make or break you.
Many of the remote professionals we know started in traditional offices then moved to remote work so they had office relationships to fall back on, and they worked hard to maintain them over distance. For someone who is remote from the start, building engaged relationships with key players who are working in the office is key. This starts from day one with your “onboarding” process. Whoever helps you get into the company may be your first network connection. This often means administrative staff. The best ones hear more and see more than most. Don’t underestimate their capability for influence and take advantage of their knowledge of the internal workings of the company whenever you can.
NOTE: If the entire team is remote, look for the “connectors.” These are the people who get things done because they always know just the right person to contact when something needs doing.
Regardless of your circumstance, start building these relationships LONG before you need them.
Do this by making yourself useful to your network before you need it. Show generosity and extend yourself for others before you have to ask for support yourself.
Be the person who compliments others and shares credit.
Most people forget or neglect to compliment good performances in others. Role model the behavior and show people around you how it’s done. Most everyone in business today has a boss and gets formally evaluated on their work performance. By giving people credit for their good work with the people that matter – their bosses, supervisors and other people they value, you show you aren’t afraid to acknowledge good partners and it keeps you top of mind with both the employee and their boss. Most bosses struggle to come up with relevant feedback on yearly reviews, so this has a double effect. Not only do people like it the moment you do it, but you get secondary credit for it when it shows up again in a yearly review.
Use the power of THANK YOU
This one is low hanging fruit. Show gratitude when someone extends themselves on your behalf. This seems like such a no-brainer, yet most people forget or simply fail to do this. You immediately set yourself apart as someone who notices things. Thank you is a powerful word. Don’t under estimate the long-term impact it will have on relationships. But be genuine….if you are handing out fake ones or just half-heartedly doling them out; people can spot it from a mile away.
Create your own informal “water cooler” moments with people.
Any contact you have is an opportunity to show your humanity and get to know someone better. Do it thoughtfully and build it into your communications and your interactions. E.g. always join conference calls early so you can chat a bit with the host. If you are hosting, start meetings with quick updates and use attendee’s names.
IM and texting are great informal channels that allow you to share fun info with colleagues or to let them know you are thinking about them. This may come in the form of sending a link to something relevant to your audience or it may be something you think with interest them in some way. Linkedin has built-in mechanisms for quick touches with your connections to congratulate them on work anniversaries, new jobs and even birthdays. Adopt techniques that are comfortable for you and resonate with your colleagues.
Use face-to-face interactions strategically.
As remote professionals, we occasionally get face time. Cherish it and put every minute to good use. Be respectful. Schedule time in advance, don’t just show up. If you have never met them in person, schedule coffee or a meal so you get casual time to bond a bit. We’ve have found that everything changes for the better when people share a meal together.
Establish connections with people in the know.
Build strategic relationships with people who have access to info that is helpful to you and make a point of connecting with them often to stay “in-the-know”. You should do the heavy lifting and schedule time for check-ins as these connections will be your life’s blood and you should demonstrate that you value them.
These relationships also come with a reasonable expectation of reciprocity…you share with me, I’ll share with you. So be sure you have something of value to share in return before these connections become so one-sided that they will lose their effectiveness quickly. There is a short window before “take, take, take” makes your connection start to feel they are being used. This will seriously hurt your reputation in the long run.
Make your boss, mentors and select collaborators are aware of your professional aspirations.
As a remote professional you don’t have the luxury of keeping your aspirations to yourself. Unless you share them with others and reiterate them periodically, no one will know. Your boss can’t read your mind. By proactively broaching the topic, you can get on record. If your boss is good, they will appreciate it and they will help you focus your own development so you can achieve your goals. If they aren’t good, you need to know this as well so you can make alternative plans as to how you intend to move your career forward.
Let people know when you are interested in special projects and stretch assignments.
Don’t be afraid to submit your name for consideration for stretch assignments and new challenges. You probably won’t get the nod every time, but not asking means you aren’t even in the running.
Building a career needs planning and deliberate effort. For remote professionals, proactive planning and deliberate effort is a priority and a necessity. What other techniques have you witnessed or utilized yourself to advance your career – either as a remote professional or in a traditional office setting?
Photo by Brooke Cagle